Along With Americans and Canadians
When you are new to Canada and especially the United States, it's easy to offend and appear sexist without meaning to do harm.
Sexism—prejudice against women—remains a very sensitive issue, especially in the U.S.
Avoid sexist language
Be very careful to use
language that implies equality of the sexes.
To avoid offence, many
people are now using the grammatically incorrect plural "they"
to refer to a single person of unknown sex.
For example, "When
a tourist visits New York, they should see Rockefeller Centre,"
is said instead of using the traditional "he" when either
a man or a woman could be involved.
Also, many people such as Dr. Voyageur
say or write "he or she" instead of using solely "he"
In conversations, do not presume
certain vocational roles are the province of one sex and not the
Dr. Voyageur once knew two medical
doctors from Quebec married to each other. In Quebec, women
keep their family names.
The doctors enjoyed offshore holidays,
but often had trouble when booking hotels. Invariably when
the husband rang, booking offices would want to assign a twin
room. When the husband asked instead for one large bed, he
was sure many reservation clerks presumed he was travelling with
a gay male
In the minds of some clerks, being a doctor was
a much too distinguished role for a woman. In the mind of Dr. Voyageur,
however, bless the woman doctor who tended his very difficult
birth. Being born with a backpack attached to his back posed a challenge
for both doctors!
Some say the women's movement in North
America has gone too
far in trying to protect the interests of women.
Even if you agree, try to be tolerant if you
After all, women in North America still face
huge prejudice in the workplace, in family structures, and in
school. Of the 1,000 largest companies in the U.S., you can still
count the women CEO's on your fingers.
Attitudes regarding many social habits are
male may be uncertain whether or not to open a door for a woman,
to offer to pay for a meal on a first date, etc. If you do not open that door you may be considered ill-mannered
or even rude, and if you do, you may be classed as sexist and insensitive
depending on the observer.
You'll just have to live with these situations.
There's no way to know in advance what to do in every social
Avoid touching and intimate language unless sure
Do not touch anyone with more than a handshake unless you are certain your action will be welcomed.
This can be a strain for people from many cultures (including some found in North America) where friendly, informal touching between men and women is not considered offensive.
in doubt, leave it out."
At the now closed Antioch College in Ohio,
men had to ask permission before kissing their dates. Moreover, they
had to receive verbal permission at each step prior to proceeding
to greater intimacy, or risk expulsion from the university. One wonders if the university closed because men were too frightened to enrol there.
The University of Iowa may expel a student or
terminate an employee who says, "Helen, that is a sexy
dress you are wearing."
Immediate termination may seem too extreme
in this situation, but that's the way it is.
Again, Dr. Voyageur realizes the economic and
social abuse women have long suffered and frankly continue to suffer
in both American and Canadian society.
Unlike Bangladesh, Bolivia, Haiti, Liberia, Malawi, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka (I could go on)—countries some Americans and Canadians consider not as "advanced" as theirs—neither Canada nor the United States has ever elected a woman head of government. Even with a person of colour in office, White House women staff still earn some 18% less than men.
For more discussion about interacting with Americans
Go to >> Making friends
Go to >> Interacting
with Americans and Canadians
Go to >> Handling complaints
Go to >> Dealing with prejudice
Go to >> Settling into
North American life
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